Flu season brings the possibility of serious illness to millions of people every year.
Annually, many of the people who die from the flu are children and elderly people. In the 2015-2016 flu season, more than 85 children passed away in the U.S. alone. One of those children was Piper Lowery, who was just 12 years old.
Her mother has been very open and public about her story, and she urges parents to get their kids flu shots to help them avoid the same fate. Piper's pediatrician, Dr. Niran S. Al-Agba, penned a heartbreaking letter to help spread her story.
Al-Agba writes, "You are the first and only patient in 16 years of practice for whom I have signed the birth certificate and the death certificate."
"The last time I saw you, I knew you did not feel well. You kept asking to go home; you were pale but still had your sparkle. I repeated your vitals myself and spent extra time with you to ensure nothing was missed."
"You were ill with influenza, and I was so worried you might worsen over the weekend."
"Your mom knew to take you to the hospital if you deteriorated and she sent me a message the following morning that you were headed there. I told her I would be concerned all day until I heard back on your condition. She messaged back that you had said you loved me."
"Thank you for those final words dear child; they will be etched on my heart forever. 'I love you too, my little friend,' I thought to myself."
"You were not mine to lose in the parental way, but you see, that is how I always thought of you. My own daughter was not born until you were eight, so you were one of my 'first' daughters."
"I thought to myself that I was the lucky one to know you and to love you. I am so thankful to your parents for sharing you with me all these years and allowing me care for you."
"Not one day has gone by since your passing that I have not thought of you and longed to see your smiling face one more time. I will miss you more than you will ever know."
Al-Agba's sorrow is evident in her letter, which she hopes will encourage more parents to get their kids flu shots, even if they seem relatively healthy. You can read her full message here.